Golfers with a range of disabilities took part in a special coaching clinic at the ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Mottram Hall.
GB&I Paralympic seated volleyball squad member Andrew Skinner, a higher leg amputee, was among those teeing it up but star of the show was Tony Lloyd.
The Telford-based golfer plays off 12 and can drive the ball more than 250 yards despite having to swing a golf club with it squeezed under his armpit due to his disability.
PGA Advanced Professional Craig Thomas, who ran the clinic, gave a few pointers to Lloyd during the clinic, working on his rhythm and he took the advice on board going on to team up with Ian Woosnam to finish second in the eve of tournament pro-am at the Cheshire resort.
“I have been playing properly since 2005 when I had proper clubs to fit me,” said Lloyd. “I started when I was a kid with my dad’s clubs but I grew out of them and couldn’t find a way to hold them. But now with the specially created clubs Titleist have given me, that has turned me from a wanna be hacker into a 12 handicapper so I’m getting there.
“Craig (Thomas) is very good, he’s very patient and looks at what we’ve got and works with that. He points out a few things, he’s not trying to change anything drastically. He looks at what we can change rather than possibly he’d like us to be able to change.
“Golf is probably the most inclusive sport with the handicap system you’ve got, you can join a club get a handicap and play with anybody – disabled, blind, deaf – any disability. I don’t they were specifically thinking that when they brought the handicap system in but it has made it very inclusive sport and there is nothing like it.”
Lloyd plays his golf at Horsehay Golf Club and has set his sights on getting down to every amateur golfers’ dream – single figures!
“I’ve been saying to myself on the quiet that I’d love to be able to put that first 9.4 on a card so I enter a competition off nine. Single figures with very short arms I would be very proud of myself if I did that, so that’s the goal.”
Lloyd’s example is a perfect illustration of why PGA Seniors sponsor ISPS has campaigned relentlessly to make golf accessible to blind and disabled golfers with a long term mission to make it a Paralympic sport.
Last year it teamed up with The PGA to launch the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme to train PGA pros to harness their skills and knowledge to coach golfers with a range of disabilities from visual impairment to loss of limbs.
To date the academy programme has proved hugely successful with more than 150 PGA pros undertaken the specialist workshops and gone on to deliver in excess of a thousand lessons to disabled golfers.
Wolverhampton-base Thomas, who spearheads the training of PGA pros in the ISPS PGA programme, believes the initiative is starting to bear fruit.
“It is really starting to boom, we are starting to create awareness of these academies at ISPS events and disabled people and their carers are starting to ask questions about how and where they can give it a go,” he said.
“I’ve already had a few people come up to me who had no idea that golf was becoming increasingly accessible and it’s been great to signpost them to local PGA Professionals who have undertaken the ISPS PGA Academy Programme workshops.”
ISPS is a ‘General Incorporated Association’ based in Tokyo.The organization was founded by Japanese philanthropist, Dr Haruhisa Handa in 2006 to support charitable causes throughout the sporting world. ISPS has fostered partnerships with golf governing bodies worldwide to help develop the game at every level and promote blind and disabled golf. ISPS’s heritage in supporting blind and disabled golf and Dr Handa’s commercial and philanthropic investment in golf has formed the foundation of its wider mission for golf to become a Paralympic sport. For further information please see www.ispsgolf.com